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More than Coffee Runners: Benefits of Interns
A Look @

It’s that time of the year again – interns. The funny thing about intern programs is that it’s similar to Hallmark holiday planning – it never ends. This year, I’m co-chairing our office’s internship program. From recruitment to program planning to interviews – it’s a little overwhelming, stressful but oh-so rewarding. Interns bring with them new energy, a yearning to learn, and sometimes a naivety that helps bitter professionals (you know who you are) remember when there were no boundaries. In a recent Bnet article, Robin Richards, CEO of Internships.com said, “Internships are valuable because they are a powerful means of expanding your social network. Personal connections and relationships are the easiest means to get you on the inside track for employment. With 7 out of 10 internships resulting in employment offers, we can clearly see a strong correlation between personal connections and success in employment.” I agree with Robin 110%.

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It Requires An Attention Span: Silent Horror Films
Lovely Shades of Nostalgia
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Attention spans are wonderful things. Too bad they are noticeably lacking in society today. I would appreciate even a small attention span, going to dinner with someone or walking along having a conversation without them looking at their cell phone, sitting down to watch a movie in its entirety without needing to log on to the Internet, and so on. So I’m reaching here when I suggest watching silent films. An activity that not only requires one to read (how dare I suggest such a thing), but paying attention to body language, facial expressions, and a story entirely dependent upon the viewer actually grasping it. Plus, there are no explosions to distract you and no computer generated creatures to stifle your own creative insights. Forgive me for wanting you to use basic reasoning skills, an imagination, and an awareness while viewing a film. I thought I would start with a couple of my favorite horror films. (With other installments for other genres to come.) If you are of the minor


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Spring Cleaning and Closet Purging: If You Haven’t Worn That Item of Clothing Within the Past Year, You’re Not Going to Wear It This Year Either, So Get Rid of It!
NickShell.com
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This black vest I wore at my 10 Year Class Reunion two years ago is now in the give-way bag. (June 2009) I am in the third week of my new job. That means I have now worn all my best quality and best matching “outfits” to work. It’s during week three that the mediocre stuff comes out of the closet. Those weird-fitting collared shirts that pooch out in the stomach and make me look 30 pounds heavier. The sweaters that are a little too short and expose my belt. The purple shirt. And for the fact that we are official in Spring now, I’m taking full advantage of my current “Spring Cleaning” mindset: This week as I wear the clothes in my closet that I don’t wear often, at the end of each day I am choosing officially whether to get rid of it (by giving it away) or keeping it. For example, today I wore my khaki vest to work. I think I’ve realized I like the idea of vests more than I actually like wearing them. When I got home today, the kh


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Montenegro
Pete and Kimmy

I had heard that Montenegro was incredibly beautiful. Even though I was prepared for a gorgeous drive, it is still is surprising to see this out the bus window: I mean, heck, road trips to me have been to California through the not-so-lovely desert. After the bus ride, we ended up in Podgorica, Montenegro. A city that is mainly meant for business. There isn’t really anything to see in the city. Fortunately, Pete had a contact through a man who was in Hungary on a couple mission at the same time. This contact was a German man named Hasko who was in Montenegro to help the policing system there. Montenegro is hoping to become part of the EU, so the country is making steps to rid corruption and start systems that are accepted by the EU. Hasko was hired by the EU to help with the corruption. We met Hasko and his assistant, Andrea (23 year old from Montenegro), at Hasko’s office. Because there isn’t much tourism here, hotels are pricey. Hasko was generous enough to let us s


Car Stolen In Dallas With Child Still Inside
By Robbie Owens, CBS 11 News

April 19, 2011 7:09 AM
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Tire tracks mark up a road. (credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Tire tracks mark up a road. (credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Robbie Owens

Reporting Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Police are hoping that a scary situation for one Dallas mother can be a lesson for parents and motorists all over the Metroplex. Someone stole the mom’s car at a gas station in south Oak Cliff. And her 6-year-old son was still inside.

According to officials with the Dallas Police Department, the mother had stopped at a Chevron gas station at the intersection of Interstate-35E and Camp Wisdom Road just before 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. While she went inside to pay, the mother left her keys inside of her black Mitsubishi Galant, along with her young boy. Someone jumped behind the wheel and took off with the car, and the child.

Fortunately, police were already in the area when the mom, who police described as “hysterical,” called 911 for help. The child was spotted on the service road just minutes later, and was returned to his mother soon after. That 6-year-old was unharmed.

Just after finding the child, police officers also spotted the stolen car still in the area. The driver was taken into custody. None of the names of those involved in this incident have been released.

Police have not said if the mother will face any charges for leaving her child alone in a running vehicle, but the did say that this type of incident happens more often than many people realize. Young children should not be left alone, and vehicles should not be left running while unattended. The Dallas PD is hoping that this mother’s close call will be a lesson for anyone else tempted to make these mistakes.


March 29, 2011 by Tim De Chant

There’s an unwritten rule followed by nearly all city dwellers—never make eye contact. If you attempt to do so, your glance will be met with utter disregard. You do not exist, other than being an object to avoid. I learned this the hard way. Upon moving to San Francisco from Minnesota—the friendliest of all possible places—I would attempt to make eye contact with strangers on the street out of courtesy. In Minnesota, this is commonplace. There, my glances were often met with a polite smile or a courteous “hello.” In San Francisco—even on streets that were anything but crowded—they were ignored with complete indifference.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I learned of San Francisco’s reputation as a friendly city. If San Francisco is considered friendly, I thought, then I’m steering clear of New York. I mused that such indifference to others must be an artifact of city life. That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people there—it’s true that San Franciscans are a generally genial bunch once you get them off the sidewalk, as are the New Yorkers I’ve met and nearly every other person from a big city. But when I’m in a small town, things sure do feel different. Walking down the street is no longer a sterile affair. It’s no family reunion, but it is degrees warmer than in cities. Still, my own experiences weren’t enough to convince me that this could be a universal trend.

Luckily, my hunch was proved correct the other day by a study which compared the rates of eye contact among people in central Philadelphia, suburban Bryn Mawr, and rural Parkesburg. The study’s authors parked two college students—a guy and a girl—outside a post office and a store in each location for two hours. The students counted the number of people who made eye contact and if anyone said “hello,” “how are you,” or the like. Lo and behold, rural Parkesburg held true to the small town stereotype. Between 70 and 80 percent of passersby glanced at the stationary students in the Parkesburg, while just 10 to 20 percent did in Philadelphia. Bryn Mawr’s pedestrians fell predictably in the middle, with around 40 to 50 percent making eye contact.

The rural types were also much more likely to say something to the strangers. One quarter of people in Parkesburg opened their mouths in greeting, while just three percent did for Bryn Mawr and Philadelphia combined. (The city center was by far the least friendly—only one person said something to each person at both the post office and the store.) In addition, everyone who did say something did make eye contact.

The study’s authors contemplated a few possible explanations for why the city dwellers were so hesitant to make eye contact. They favored the sensory overload hypothesis—that people in big cities are surrounded by too many people, noises, and other distractions—though they also speculated that city folk may fear strangers more or that small town people may be more curious about strangers. They also touched on the idea that city people are more hurried than either suburban or small town people. This notion has been covered both before and since by a number of different researchers. In general, people in larger cities do tend to walk faster, so there may be some truth to this.

Whatever the reason, I admit I exhaled a slight sigh of relief when I discovered that science confirmed my suspicions. San Franciscans, New Yorkers, Londoners—no matter how friendly they are underneath, suffer the same aversion to eye contact as other big cities. Small towns do feel friendlier.


March 29, 2011 by Tim De Chant

There’s an unwritten rule followed by nearly all city dwellers—never make eye contact. If you attempt to do so, your glance will be met with utter disregard. You do not exist, other than being an object to avoid. I learned this the hard way. Upon moving to San Francisco from Minnesota—the friendliest of all possible places—I would attempt to make eye contact with strangers on the street out of courtesy. In Minnesota, this is commonplace. There, my glances were often met with a polite smile or a courteous “hello.” In San Francisco—even on streets that were anything but crowded—they were ignored with complete indifference.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I learned of San Francisco’s reputation as a friendly city. If San Francisco is considered friendly, I thought, then I’m steering clear of New York. I mused that such indifference to others must be an artifact of city life. That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people there—it’s true that San Franciscans are a generally genial bunch once you get them off the sidewalk, as are the New Yorkers I’ve met and nearly every other person from a big city. But when I’m in a small town, things sure do feel different. Walking down the street is no longer a sterile affair. It’s no family reunion, but it is degrees warmer than in cities. Still, my own experiences weren’t enough to convince me that this could be a universal trend.

Luckily, my hunch was proved correct the other day by a study which compared the rates of eye contact among people in central Philadelphia, suburban Bryn Mawr, and rural Parkesburg. The study’s authors parked two college students—a guy and a girl—outside a post office and a store in each location for two hours. The students counted the number of people who made eye contact and if anyone said “hello,” “how are you,” or the like. Lo and behold, rural Parkesburg held true to the small town stereotype. Between 70 and 80 percent of passersby glanced at the stationary students in the Parkesburg, while just 10 to 20 percent did in Philadelphia. Bryn Mawr’s pedestrians fell predictably in the middle, with around 40 to 50 percent making eye contact.

The rural types were also much more likely to say something to the strangers. One quarter of people in Parkesburg opened their mouths in greeting, while just three percent did for Bryn Mawr and Philadelphia combined. (The city center was by far the least friendly—only one person said something to each person at both the post office and the store.) In addition, everyone who did say something did make eye contact.

The study’s authors contemplated a few possible explanations for why the city dwellers were so hesitant to make eye contact. They favored the sensory overload hypothesis—that people in big cities are surrounded by too many people, noises, and other distractions—though they also speculated that city folk may fear strangers more or that small town people may be more curious about strangers. They also touched on the idea that city people are more hurried than either suburban or small town people. This notion has been covered both before and since by a number of different researchers. In general, people in larger cities do tend to walk faster, so there may be some truth to this.

Whatever the reason, I admit I exhaled a slight sigh of relief when I discovered that science confirmed my suspicions. San Franciscans, New Yorkers, Londoners—no matter how friendly they are underneath, suffer the same aversion to eye contact as other big cities. Small towns do feel friendlier.


Newspapers and Social Media: Still Not Really Getting It
By Mathew Ingram Apr. 5, 2011, 9:11am PT 66 Comments
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Updated: Many traditional media entities have embraced social-media services like Twitter and Facebook and blogs — at least to some extent — as tools for reporting and journalism, using them to publish and curate news reports. But newspapers in particular seem to have a hard time accepting the “social” part of these tools, at least when it comes to letting their journalists engage with readers as human beings. A case in point is the new social-media policy introduced at a major newspaper in Canada, which tells its staff not to express personal opinions — even on their personal accounts or pages — and not to engage with readers in the comments.

The policy, which I received from a source close to The Toronto Star (the full version is embedded below), has a number of sensible things to say about using social media, including the fact that these tools “can be valuable sources for story ideas and contacts for journalists, and as a means of connecting directly with the communities we cover.” The paper also says that it “encourages journalists – reporters, columnists, photographers and editors – to take advantage of social media tools in their daily work.” But it warns that any comments posted using such tools “can be circulated beyond their intended audience.”

This all makes perfect sense. Social media is useful for journalism, and it does connect reporters to the communities they cover — better than just about anything else does. And yes, it is wise to be aware of the unintended consequences of even offhand remarks.

No talking about what you do

Then comes the part about being impartial and objective, and that’s when the trouble starts. The policy says staff should “never post information on social media that could undermine your credibility with the public or damage the Star’s reputation in any way, including as an impartial source of news.” And that’s not all — the document goes on to say that:

Anything published on social media – whether on Star sites or personal platforms – cannot reveal information about content in development, newsroom issues or Star sources. Negative commentary about your colleagues or workplace will not be tolerated.

In other words, no posting about stories that are being worked on, no comments on newsroom-related topics, no talking about people who might be used or are being used as sources for Star reporting. And this prohibition doesn’t just apply to Star accounts or services under the newspaper’s name — it applies to any comments that a reporter or editor might make on their own personal accounts as well. Obviously the paper doesn’t want staffers bad-mouthing each other or talking about sensitive internal issues (something the New York Times also confronted last year in 2009), but a blanket ban on anything related to content seems unnecessarily harsh, not to mention completely unrealistic. Of course, the Star is far from alone in this.

Never talk to your readers

It gets worse. The policy goes on to say that journalists who report for the Star “should not editorialize on the topics they cover,” because readers could construe this as evidence that their news reporting is biased — and then tells reporters and editors that they shouldn’t respond to reader comments either. It says:

As well, journalists should refrain from debating issues within the Star’s online comments forum to avoid any suggestion that they may be biased in their reporting.

This last prohibition is a classic case of missing the point completely. According to the Star, apparently, comments on news stories are something that exists to allow readers to talk amongst themselves, not something that a reporter or editor should get involved in. That’s just wrong. As someone who was intimately involved in social-media strategy for another major metropolitan newspaper in Canada (full disclosure: the paper in question competes with The Toronto Star to some extent), one of the main features of having comments is the ability for readers to interact with writers and editors at the paper.

Treating the comments section as something that journalists shouldn’t get involved in turns it into a ghetto, and also contributes to the problems that many newspapers have with flaming and trolls and other issues — why should anyone behave properly in a comment forum if none of the staff at the paper are going to bother getting involved?

Never express an opinion on anything

The Star is not the only media outlet making these kinds of errors — while they are happy to use social media to push their content, most major newspapers have failed to take advantage of these tools when it comes to building relationships with their readers. The biggest single factor holding them back seems to be fear — namely, a fear that they will no longer be seen as objective, something NYT executive editor Bill Keller reinforced in a recent column, in which he suggested that the paper was one of the few remaining holdouts in a world where everyone feels free to state their opinion.

Here’s a news flash for Bill, and for the rest of the newspaper world: that particular genie is already out of the bottle and has been for some time now. As journalism professor Jay Rosen has argued, the “view from nowhere” that mainstream media continues to defend is not only dying, but arguably does readers a disservice — since it often distorts the news in order to maintain a perfectly balanced view of events. Although some journalists have started to admit they have personal interests and causes, that remains rare.

But the main point being missed is that social media is powerful precisely because it is personal. If you remove the personal aspect, all you have is a glorified news release wire or RSS feed. The best way to make social media work is to allow reporters and editors to be themselves, to be human, and to engage with readers through Twitter and Facebook and comments and blogs. Is there a risk that someone might say something wrong? Of course there is. But without that human touch, there is no point in doing it at all.

Update: Toronto Star spokesman Bob Hepburn got back to me and said that the paper’s policy was “well in line with what mainstream media organizations have always done. We’ve always placed some limitations on journalists in terms of them expressing their opinions, either in the newspaper or outside of the newspaper.”

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Ever been star struck? I guess if I knew more about the movies, I might be more so, but that hasn’t stopped me asking questions of some of the instructors we’ve had at The Film School course on screen writing that I’m on at the moment. Here’s writing maestro Stewart Stern who wrote the screen play for Rebel Without A Cause and winner of an Emmy for Sybil, starring Sally Feild and Joanne Woodward. We celebrated Stewart’s 89th birthday last week with a cake inscribed “Old Guys and Writers Rule” after an inscription on one of his many baseball caps. Part of the course includes acting classes, some led by Tom Skerritt, who played Viper in Top Gun with Tom Cruise and who appears in many other films and TV shows. The idea is that we need to understand what an actor does (or should be able to do), and write scripts accordingly. Tom makes me want to take up acting classes big time. He can take a simple line and turn it into a life time turning poin
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First Pitch: Top Baseball Movies for Opening Day
Detroit Sports Donks

Well ladies and gentlemen, after a long winter it’s time to pour yourself a tall one, grab a hot dog and crack open a bag of peanuts. It’s Opening Day 2011. To start off this season on the right foot, the Donks would like to share our top five baseball movies. If we missed one of your favorites let us know in the comments. Enjoy the season Donk City and Go Tigers: 1. Field of Dreams (1989) 7.6/10 IMDB 2. Major League (1989) 6.9/10 IMDB 3. The Sandlot (1993) 7.5/10 IMDB 4. Bull Durham (1988) 7/10 IMDB 5. The Natural (1984) 7.4/10 IMDB *Bonus clip for Tiger Fans: What else says Opening Day like the voice of summer, Ernie Harwell. Donk Rating 10/10


One of my favorite books, ever! Kick-ass and inspiring in equal measure….Cover via Amazon Serious question. I’m not persuaded one can be both all the time. We all need time to think, reflect, ponder, meander, take some detours, some of which — being immediately unproductive — lead into dead ends, some of which lead us off into totally new and hugely profitable (financially or creatively) directions. Shutting down the production line for a while — silence! solitude! no immediate income! I’m wasting time! — can feel terrifying. It’s absolutely necessary. But we don’t talk about the downtime, the quiet moments of connection and insight that can, when allowed to blossom quietly unforced by another’s schedule, birth wonders. Whenever I’ve taught or lectured on journalism, I crush a few young dreams when I make clear that traditional news journalism more resembles an industrial assembly line than an artist’s studio. Editors